Generally, Schleswig-Holstein is not seen as a classic location of the chemical industry. Nevertheless, with nearly 4,000 employees and an area of around 2,000 ha, Brunsbüttel is one of the outstanding locations of Germany’s chemical industry.
Anyone passing through peaceful Brunsbüttel will only notice at second glance that the maritime town on the Elbe and Kiel Canal is the centre of Schleswig-Holstein’s largest industrial area. Only after a ferry ride or taking a bridge south over the canal does the commercial property area of around 2,000 hectares with enormous industrial plants emerge, lined with cultivated fields and wind turbines. The area is about 80 kilometres northwest of Hamburg and is, as such, part of the Hamburg metropolitan region, the German “Gateway to the world”, whose international airport can be reached within an hour-long drive.
Additionally, the area is part of the Unterelbe (Lower Elbe river) economic area, which also encompasses Niedersachsen’s industrial areas on the Elbe. In order to keep cutting down on route length, the egeb: Wirtschaftsförderung established a new ferry connection together with partners from Lower Saxony between Cuxhaven and Brunsbüttel, which has since caught the attention of the economy in neighbouring Denmark.
As originally planned, industrial production places a significant focus on the chemical and oil industries. Since the 1970s, many businesses of internationally successful companies have settled in Brunsbüttel. These include, among others, Covestro (formerly: Bayer MaterialScience), Bioenergie Brunsbüttel Contracting, Lanxess, Sasol, Total, Mercuria and Yara. They supply their markets around the world with products that are produced or refined in Brunsbüttel.
These companies came together with further plants from other sectors at the Brunsbüttel site along with companies throughout the region, along the Hamburg-Sylt route to form the ChemCoast Park. The plant manager group of the ChemCoast Park provides various economic stimuli to the region and beyond – this is impressively documented by the Brunsbüttler Industriegespräche (BIG).
The ChemCoast Park itself has excellent infrastructure. In addition to the plants that are already there, space is readily available for industrial use, even for large projects in the future – and for comparably low prices. Additionally, the partner businesses offer a multitude of services, from fire and factory security to facility management and analytics. The raw material supply via pipelines is also secured there, just as the comprehensive technical infrastructure, which consists of industry gas and fibre-optic connections, among others. For the disposal of hazardous materials, the SAVA hazardous waste incineration plant is available in the direct vicinity.
Using synergy effects from partnerships is a fundamental part of the ChemCoast Park, such as purchasing pools, a material compound or even in the training and further education of professionals. Expensive isolated solutions are thus avoided and the companies are protected from high costs.
In particular, the expertise of the logistics companies who operate at the regional and supra-regional level is crucial in the success of the production companies on site. One of these is the Friedrich A. Kruse jun. Internationale Spedition, now an important part of the supply chain for the companies here. Among other things the handling of leading companies in the wind energy sector takes place on their grounds, as these companies require massive storage areas with a trimodal connection due to the extreme size of their components. With the tendency towards a boom in wind power on the North Sea coast – in the offshore areas as well as on land – the phasing out of nuclear energy should be partially compensated for.
In the three harbours owned by Brunsbüttel Ports GmbH, around 12 million tonnes of load are handled annually, which makes Brunsbüttel Germany’s sixth largest sea port location. In addition, the harbour has a close partnership with the Hamburg harbour.
Through its focus as a universal harbour, diverse loads in the areas of piece, liquid and bulk goods can be handled. Liquid goods that are regularly handled include, among others, crude oil, propane and chemical products. The harbour on the Elbe is set up for a maximum ship draught of 14.80 meters for ocean-going vessels of the Panmax class. The Brunsbüttel harbours are connected trimodally. In addition to the waterway connections, freight can also be transported by land via rail as well as the A23/B5 highway to and from the harbour.
The chemical and oil industries continue to be of great importance for the economic region; as such, the companies based there have grown tremendously and have diversified over the last years. Further settlements, such as the preservative manufacturer Schülke & Mayr, are approaching the implementation phase. Companies from other sectors, such as Bioenergie Brunsbüttel Contracting GmbH, also select this lucrative location. Even numerous businesses within a 70 kilometre radius profit from the prospering economy around Brunsbüttel. Be it the healthcare industry, service providers or technology companies – the Dithmarschen and Steinburg districts see the Brunsbüttel industrial centre as the driving force of economic development in western Schleswig-Holstein. This is seen, not least, in the number of jobs. While around 4,000 people work directly in Brunsbüttel in the industry, another 12,500 jobs in the region are influenced by the companies located there. In the meantime, the need for well-trained professionals is rising, particularly for technicians and engineers. The surrounding area offers a high quality of life that starts with extremely affordable housing and is topped off by outstanding diverse cultural events for such a rural region.
Independent of all the economic developments, Brunsbüttel and the ChemCoast Park have established themselves over the decades as a stable industrial region within the worldwide competition. Still, a standstill is a step back – and as such, the next steps for further development of the location are already underway or at least being planned. A multi-purpose pier on the Elbe harbour is planned so that, for example, extremely heavy goods can be loaded and unloaded. The industrial region might experience another boost in the mid or long-term when the planned further construction of the A20 motorway to Itzehoe and beyond that to Niedersachsen is implemented. Meanwhile, the individual industrial areas along both sides of the Unterelbe (Lower Elbe river) – in Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony– are continuing to grow together. A large economic area emerges, not least because of joint regional management, that can easily compete with the other large regions of Europe and thus offer tens of thousands of jobs in various sectors.
The author studied economics, commercial law and political science, and after a few positions in 2005, took the position of head of the Centrum für Angewandte Technologien (Centre for Applied Technologies, CAT) in Meldorf. She became the deputy managing director of the egeb: Wirtschaftsförderung in 2007 and in addition took on the management of the Wirtschafts- und Wissenschaftsparks für Marine Biotechnologie (Economic and Scientific Park for Marine Biotechnology, mariCUBE) in Büsum in 2009. Since 2014, she has been managing director with sole power of representation at Entwicklungsgesellschaft Brunsbüttel GmbH.